Also known as Business Process Mapping.
Variants include Flowcharting and Value Stream Mapping.
A process map is a graphical representation that illustrates the sequence of activities within a business process. It represents these activities in a step by step manner to help understanding how a product is made and how a service is delivered. Process maps are simple ways of making sense of what is happening or should happen in a process. They allow to know how exactly an organization does its work, and how well it is performing in terms of the goals it has set for itself.
A process map provides a mechanism for analyzing and studying any process. They are considered the first step toward process management and process improvement. They are used to map existing processes, design new processes, and map the future state of how things should be after improving or redesigning the process. Continuous improvement teams are using process maps very often to identify variability and non-value added activities in order to improve the process which will help in improving of the quality of products and services.
Processes can be mapped and analyzed using different techniques depending on what you want to achieve. The following are some of the most common techniques.
- Simple-drawing map – The most basic format which contains only boxes and arrows.
- SIPOC map – A high-level process summary.
- Flowchart – Provides a detailed view of the ‘should-be’ process including decision points.
- Process sequence chart – Provides a way to identify the non-value-added activities.
- Value stream maps – Used to prioritize improvement opportunities by helping identify bottlenecks, delays and waste.
From this point until the end of the material, we will use the simple drawing process maps to illustrate the examples.
Example – Equipment Installation
The following equipment installation process map is an example that uses the simple-drawing format. Note that you may add additional information to each activity such as time and responsibilities.
Rework loops can also be added where activities are repeated. We have two rework loops in this example.
Example – Doing the Laundry
The following is an example of a process map for doing the laundry in the old fashioned way.
Often times it is useful to number the process steps (as in this example) to avoid losing track of the flow, especially if the process has lots of activities.
Process maps can describe processes in different levels of details, just like real maps. Each process step can itself be decomposed into several sub-steps, as illustrated below. Additionally, a process itself can be as simple or as complex as required, and the amount of detail varies depending on what you want to achieve.
Example – Making Orange Juice
The following is a process map for making orange juice. This process may be part of a larger process (for example, preparing breakfast).
Each of the five process steps can be decomposed further. For example, you may describe how to peel and slice the oranges and how to use the mixer machine. It is important however to work at the level that makes sense for your situation.
Example – Repairing a Defective Unit
The following is a process map for repairing a defective unit after received by a customer. Only one process step has been mapped to a second level.
Notice the rework loop which occurs when it is discovered during testing that the installed part is non-functional. Notice also the 10%, which represents the average proportion of the discovered non-functional parts during testing. This is the key performance indicator that needs to be tracked for continuous improvement.
One of the main benefits of a process map is to identify key process input variables that cause high variability in the process. These variables are often classified into three categories:
- Noise factors (N) – The uncontrollable, costly or preferably not to be controlled factors such as environmental and cultural factors.
- Standard factors (SOP) – The standardized factors according to some operational requirements, regulations or best practices. Examples are safety and preventive maintenance factors.
- Design factors (DF) – The controllable factors that can be adjusted such as the speed of a machine and the ingredients of a recipe.
Classifying input variables will help to focus on the factors that are controllable. Remember that only the design factors is where you need to focus your efforts to improve the process.
Example – Making Coffee
The following is an example of a process map that details the steps required to make coffee drink.
Note: Although there are many possible sources of variation, only the eight controllable factors could be adjusted to influence the quality and taste of the coffee.
Constructing a Process Map
Process maps are easy to understand and simple to construct through the following steps:
- Gather the team and make sure that everyone is clear on the process that is going to be mapped.
- Agree on the mapping technique to be used, on the appropriate scope and boundaries, and on the level of detail.
- Generate the ‘As-Is’ process map by identifying all the current activities and their sequence of completion.
- Add further details as necessary, and classify the input variables as Design, Noise or SOP.
- Once the process is mapped, analyze it to identify problem areas and improvement opportunities. Identify all the areas that hinder the process or add little or no value.
- Build the ‘Should-Be’ process map.
- Implement actions to reduce variability and improve the process.
There are many tools that can help you to draw a process map. One of the simplest ways is to use this process map template.
A process map enhances the understanding of the process and how it operates. It helps bringing clarity to complex processes in order to simplify, streamline or optimize them. It helps identify problem areas such as bottlenecks, delays, duplication of effort, and overall inefficient operations. Additionally, process maps can provide inputs to other continuous improvement techniques. They can also serve as means to document and communicate business processes, and are often found in training, maintenance, technical and quality manuals.
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